September marks the end of summer and a return to work for many. Summer “toys” are packed away, summer cabins are mostly shuttered, students are returning to school and the pace at work is picking up as our clients move into the last quarter of 2016. Hopefully, all of you had a chance to enjoy at least one favorite vacation activity during the summer and are starting the fall season with the energy and positive outlook that accompanies several weeks of consistent exposure to blue skies and warm sunshine.
September also marks the start of KCBA’s work year. To be sure, your Board of Trustees has been meeting (or at least retreating) over the summer, but now is when the race to accomplish our 2016-2017 goals begins. As with every year, the goals are tied to mission: a) supporting a diverse membership; b) promoting a just, collegial and accessible legal system; c) working with the judiciary to achieve excellence in the administration of justice; d) benefiting the community; and e) offering opportunities for public service and input into matters of public policy.
Here is our 2016-2017 year in preview:
KCBA’s Board aspires to complete a new five-year strategic plan; transform results from our 2015 communications audit into a final plan with a timeline for implementation; reassess our approaches to membership recruitment and retention to ensure that KCBA remains relevant to an evolving profession and the ever-changing community in which it practices; support the work of the Juvenile Justice Reform Task Force; unveil a new pipeline program, building upon the successes of our recently retired Future of the Law Institute (FLI); and, as always, support the annual work plans developed by each of KCBA’s 12 standing committees.
During September, October and November, membership, the judiciary and our pro bono programs are at the top of KCBA’s agenda. KCBA’s fall membership drive is under way, managed by Chris Dreps, KCBA’s member services senior manager. In this role, Chris, who started working at KCBA in 2010, oversees operations and staff supervision for membership and Lawyer Referral Services. Chris came to KCBA with a background in marketing and nonprofit management, having worked as a marketing coordinator in the private sector and an executive director for a nonprofit. She’s played an instrumental role in transforming how our membership and LRS programs are managed and provides ongoing support to our Membership Committee, which is very capably chaired by Paul Crisalli.
To give you a sense of Chris’s enthusiasm and dedication, I’ll share a recent update from Chris on the results of her participation at a resource fair for first-year law students at Seattle University: “We picked up 15 new student members last night … they are so fun to meet!” Each of us can assist Chris and her team in their efforts to build and maintain a robust membership base by renewing our own memberships and by reaching out to recruit at least one new member. If you need help with your elevator speech, contact Chris and she will give you what you need. You can reach her at ChrisD@kcba.org.
KCBA’s commitment to achieving excellence in the administration of justice is a selling point to include in any elevator speech, particularly this fall when our efforts to promote an exceptional bench are so visible. Over the past many months, our Judicial Candidate Evaluation Committee has been evaluating and rating candidates for the several contested seats on our District Court, Superior Court and Supreme Court. Those ratings, which range from “not-qualified” to “exceptionally well-qualified,” are the result of hundreds of hours of work by committee members, including Co-chairs Marcia Nelson and John Casey.
Additionally, KCBA is hosting judicial candidate forums for our members on September 19 (candidates for King County Superior Court), September 26 (candidates for Supreme Court) and September 30 (candidates for King County District Court, South Division). These forums provide an opportunity for members to personally evaluate candidates through a moderated Q&A session. Details regarding time and location of the forums appear on the kcba.org website and are also listed elsewhere in this edition of the Bar Bulletin.
KCBA’s Pro Bono Legal Services program features prominently when I talk about the benefits of joining KCBA. KCBA operates the largest pro bono program in Washington, serving as a resource for local bar associations across the state. Managed by Threesa Milligan, KCBA’s director of Pro Bono Services, our program secures free legal services for disadvantaged King County residents who need assistance to keep their housing, extricate themselves from abusive domestic situations, pursue third-party custody of children, address debt and more.
A few words about Threesa. Following graduation from the University of Washington School of Law, she started in private practice as a family law attorney. She shifted her focus to public service in 2001, when she became executive director of Snohomish County Legal Services. In January 2010, she transitioned her leadership focus to King County, taking on her current KCBA role.
In addition to managing KCBA’s pro bono programs, Threesa co-chairs the Access to Justice Board’s Delivery Systems Committee, serves on the Executive Committee of the Washington State Pro Bono Council, conducts trainings nationally for the ABA’s Center for Pro Bono, and is a 2013 recipient of the Access to Justice Leadership Award. KCBA and the larger community it serves are very fortunate to have Threesa on our pro bono team. Thanks to her dedication and expertise, a significant benefit attending KCBA membership is the opportunity to participate in a well-organized, far-reaching and very successful effort that addresses our community’s ever growing need for civil legal aid.
Commissioned by the Washington Supreme Court, the 2015 Civil Legal Needs Study Update determined that seven in 10 low-income households face at least one civil legal problem each year and they likely have more than one. The average number of legal problems per low-income household has tripled since 2003 when the first Civil Legal Needs Study was completed.
These problems touch on the most fundamental aspects of people’s lives, including health care, employment, housing, financial management, and protection from domestic violence and/or sexual assault. And, without question, race, ethnicity and other personal characteristics affect the frequency of these problems and the barriers to accessing the justice system.1 KCBA’s Pro Bono Committee, chaired by Carl Marquardt, is involved in ongoing efforts to address the unmet need for services.
This fall KCBA is working hard to address the civil legal aid funding gap through its participation in the Campaign for Equal Justice (“C4EJ”). Principally a statewide campaign managed by the Legal Foundation of Washington (LFW), C4EJ raises funds that it distributes through grants to staffed civil legal aid programs such as Columbia Legal Services and volunteer attorney programs such as KCBA’s Pro Bono Legal Services program. In King County, C4EJ includes a jointly run LFW/King County Bar Foundation (KCBF) fund drive that secures donations from law firms across King County. KCBF receives 45 percent of the money raised in the fund drive, which is used to support KCBA’s pro bono programs.
This year’s C4EJ King County Law Firm Campaign kicks off on September 9 with a goal to raise $560,000 from at least 105 law firms. The effort is overseen by a committee composed of representatives of both LFW and KCBF (Development Manager Scott Pinkston and KCBF Board members Derek Crick, Fred Rivera and Jim Austin). If you practice in a law firm, please encourage your colleagues to support a generous firm donation to C4EJ. Your efforts will support civil legal aid and advance KCBA’s mission to benefit the community.
Before ending my preview of KCBA’s work for 2016-2017, I want to remind everyone that September marks a new beginning for an important group of King County attorneys — our new admittees who will be sworn in at the King County Superior Court on Tuesday, September 20. I hope you can take time in the next few months to welcome one or more of our new attorneys to the King County Bar.
Over coffee or lunch ask them about their goals and concerns, share with them your tips for success and, of course, encourage them to join the KCBA family. KCBA needs them, along with each of you, to continue advancing our mission. Thank you in advance for joining me on the welcoming committee and for all that you do to benefit our profession, our courts and our community.
1 Washington State Supreme Court Civil Legal Needs Study Update, June 2015: http://ocla.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/CLN.